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Interviews with Successful Hotel Managers : Karim Tayach, General Manager, Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, Indonesia
By By Lily Lin, Chief Editor, iworkinhotels.com
Karim Tayach was born in Germany but he is half Tunisian and half German. He graduated with a Diploma of Higher Technician in Hotel Management from the "Institut Supérieur d'Hôtellerie et de Tourisme" in Tunisia, with numerous awards.
Karim Tayach speaks Arabic, French, English, Italian as well as German fluently. He began his hotel hospitality career when he worked for Hyatt International back in 1995. He has 15 years of experience in hospitality industry prior to his appointment as the General Manager at The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place in March 2007. He had worked in distinguished hotels in the Middle East such as The Hyatt Regency Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and the Grand Hyatt Muscat in Oman as well as Al Diar Siji Hotel in Fujeirah in the UAE before joining The Ritz-Carlton Company in 2001.
Prior to his appointment as the General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton Jakarta Pacific Place, Karim Tayach was the Executive Assistant Manager - Food and Beverage of The Ritz-Carlton, Jakarta Mega Kuningan from 2005 to 2007. During his professional career, he had many years of experience in opening well-known hotels, such as The Hyatt Regency Makkah in 1995, The Hyatt Regency Muscat, Oman in 1998, The Al Diar Siji Hotel In Fujeirah U.A.E in 1999 and The Ritz-Carlton, Doha in 2001.
Karim Tayach joined The Ritz-Carlton group in Dubai in 2001 as an Outlets Manager and has won numerous awards, such as the Manager Award and 1# Best Manager recognition in 2002. When he moved to the Ritz-Carlton Doha in Qatar and successfully led the hotel's Food & Beverage team in hosting some of the most prestigious events, such as the Crown Prince of Qatar Royal Wedding, several GCC (Gold Countries Council) conferences, the preparation of G7 summit in 2001, the Islamic summit with 52 head of states in 2003, the 2004 FIFA Conference.
As the General Manager, Karim Tayach oversees the general operations of the hotel, serviced apartment and catering and conference of The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, which features the most spacious guests' rooms in Jakarta as well as the most prestigious and largest hotel ballroom in Asia.
Consider the fact that the people I interviewed have achieved a great deal in their career, I must say that it surprises me that years later they are still very proud that either they have received certain awards as a student or they graduated with honors. I understand you also received a number of awards as a student. Are you proud of the fact that you were a good student?
In College, I was doing fine, however, later, during my study on hotel management at the Institut Supérieur d'Hôtellerie et de Tourisme in Tunisia, I did extremely well because I loved what I was studying. Before graduation, I was nominated for the highest academic achievement award in the nation, The President Award. It was a big accomplishment for me, and I am very proud of it. As a student, if you like what you are studying or if you like certain subjects, it is much easier to do well.
You have a real international background. Are you a citizen of the world?
Absolutely! My father is Tunisian and my mother is German. My wife is Filipino with Chinese roots. Not only my family and myself have an international background, also, I work in the hotel industry, which by nature, is an international business. I worked in several countries and was exposed to a number of amazing and different cultures.
Are you aware of the fact that there is a website sells information about you? For example, information about your position costs US$0.35, your company address, US$0.20, and your phone number, US$1.50. How do you feel about it?
I'm kind of surprised! It should not have happened! At least, they should have asked.
Your father was an hotelier. Obviously, he must have influenced you to enter the hotel industry. But have you ever thought about a different profession?
I grew up in a hotel environment. My father surprisingly did not want me to become an hotelier. He thought life as an hotelier is very hard. He told me that I could choose to study in any school except for a hotel school. I, therefore, registered myself at the university. However, a few weeks before the start of the school year, I saw an advertisement about enrolling in a hotel school. I realized then and decided that I have to study what "I" really like instead of doing what other people telling me to do and studying subjects that I have no real interest in.
When I first started to work in the hotel industry, I tried to copy my father whenever the situation I was facing was similar to that of what my father had to face. It took several years for my father to change his mind set about his son entering the hotel industry, but slowly he came around. I guess he had no choice. Although he did not tell me, but he told my mother that he was very proud of me. He told me that he hopes that I will do better in the hotel industry than he. It was not an easy or light statement from him as he is one of the pioneers in the hotel industry and is considered an icon of the first generation GMs in Tunisia at times when the industry just started to develop in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Did you grow up in Tunisia? Are there major cultural differences between Tunisia and Indonesia? How did you make the adjustment?
I grew up in Tunisia. I came from a different culture background; of course, I had to make adjustments. Both Tunisian and Indonesian are very open-minded people and are forgiving. Young people here are willing to learn and if training is offered, people voluntarily attend so that they can develop themselves.
Indonesians, with different culture background and different religions, live together peacefully and in harmony. They have an amazing and fantastic social network, where everyone respects each others' beliefs and background. As an example, when I first started here in 2005, a terrible tsunami just occurred. Employees in our Hotel from all kinds of social, educational and religious backgrounds automatically started to collect donations to help the victims. Other nations could learn a lot from Indonesians; they are warm-hearted people, who will always land a hand to help others regardless of where they come from.
Indonesians also learned how to live with the "traffic jams". They are rather matter-of-fact about it. Nowadays, when I travel around the world and when I see some of my friends becoming frustrated when they are in a small light traffic queue, I can't help but to tell them about the attitude of Indonesian when facing a traffic jam.
In the earlier part of your career, you worked in F&B. Is F&B still important to you?
In Tunisia things are a little different. In the hotel industry, normally, you follow the rooms division career path and make your way up. But from the very beginning I loved F&B, although it is the toughest part of the business in a hotel --- and the hours are long. At the same time, if you have a successful restaurant, F&B is the face and the reputation on which the Hotel could build its name.
The "Miele Guide" first Indonesian edition in 2011 named our restaurant among the top-10 restaurants in Indonesia. The Indonesian market is very competitive. Nevertheless, we are very proud that we have successfully positioned our hotel - along with our restaurant - as the market leader not only in Jakarta or Indonesia but also in the region.
According to the Ritz-Carlton's Gold Standards which encompass the values and philosophy by which the Ritz-Carlton employees operate. Employees are required to address guests by their name. Is it possible to address every guest by their name?
It is possible indeed. For example, every housekeeping staff has a guest list. When a housekeeper enters a guest`s room, they can simply address the guest by his/her name. When our staff calls the guest, our records indicate the guest name. If every employee has to remember 1,000 names, it would be difficult but if every employee will remember and use 10 names only, the effect can be great!
What does "hospitality" mean to Indonesian?
Hospitality is embedded in every Indonesian's psyche; service is a part of the Indonesian culture because it is normal in Asia that young take care of the old. People are used to the idea of serving and respecting others and most importantly, it comes from the heart . . . .
On July 17 2009, the JW Marriott Hotel and The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta Hotel were the sites of two separate explosions, carried out by suicide bombers, resulting in nine deaths and 53 injuries. As the GM of Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, how did you handle such a tragic and unexpected situation?
Actually, it happened in our sister hotel but I knew almost everyone in that hotel. The team and I did everything possible to help our colleagues, guests and employees. This incident changed my perspective in life as you get to learn or realize more what is important in life and what's not!.
The Five-Star Alliance lists 12 best luxury hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia, in which Ritz-Carlton is one of them. How do you compete against 11 other competitors --- of which many are internationally known brands and are also located nearby?
Jakarta is a very competitive market in terms of hotel pricing and product. The key is to be on our toes at all times, looking out globally for the best practice and ideas. For example, every month we ask our employees to contribute new ideas about a particular subject related to the hotel operation, and we have a monthly competition to implement all these great ideas. We call it the "lion's share".
We have to always listen to our guests and never be satisfied.
In your opinion, what makes a successful GM?
It's a difficult question. I think being a good listener to his employees and guests and act on their feedback is a key component and a very important factor to be a successful GM. Walk in their shoes and make it easier to implement the different ideas.
What advice would you offer to those who are inspired to become a GM one day?
You need to be 100% committed and love what you do, and the human factors, such as personal touch and willingness to deal with guest and employee issues should come from the heart.
I see so often that young people choose a certain profession because of their parents' or friends' influence. To be successful, you must choose the field that you love. Don't spend the rest of your life doing things you don't like. Your heart and soul will not be there! An old Chinese saying states that: "If you like what you do, you won't ever have to work in your life!"
Never stop learning. I am learning every day!
At work, what pleases you the most?
I am excited to see my employees and guests every day. What makes me happy at work is that when a guest tells me that one of my employees helped them or assisted them. It tells me that this employee has the heart and soul and that he will advance in his/her career for sure because he/she has the right attitude.
Mistakes always happen but as long as we learn from our mistakes, we can improve. I am always pleased to see improvements.
What were your proudest moments?
When I graduated from the "Institut Supérieur d'Hôtellerie et de Tourisme" in Tunisia, I received the highest academic award the country had to offer, The President Award. I went to my father with my award; I was very proud!
Also, I was very proud on my wedding day, and when both of my children were born.
When our hotel won the 2010 and 2011 Best Hotel in Indonesia Award, I couldn't help it but feeling extremely proud of our team`s achievements.
If there is one thing you could do it over again, what would that be?
There is nothing I will change. I will do exactly the same! I am very satisfied with my life. Well, maybe I should have joined a soccer team like several of my friends. (I used to play soccer with the intention of becoming a professional.) But I didn't choose that, instead, I chose the hotel field . . . .
For now, along with my team, I want to focus on establishing our Ritz Carlton Pacific Place to be the best hotel in the Southeast Asia. We are looking to win the Best Hotel Award for the third time. My long-term goal is to move into a regional office role one day, overseeing a larger number of hotels.
About Dr. Lily Lin's Blog
Lily Lin, MBA, Ph.D. is the Chief Editor of Dr. Lily Lin's Blog at http://iworkinhotels.com. She has extensive experiences in marketing management, consulting and training. She has taught in American, German and Dutch universities. In addition, she is also an academic board member of the Schouten University, Master of Business Administration, a British accredited online university.
For more than 20 years, she was the designer and the senior lecturer of a number of courses at the Hotelschool The Hague, including Revenue Management, the first ever offered at the School. She conceived her latest project, "Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers Series", in which she interviews hotel managers from major international chain and independent hotels. Her interviews and other works are published regularly in her blog.
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